Research – Choosing Happiness 2017-01-13T13:41:38+00:00

Research – Choosing Happiness

Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor at University of California, Riverside, has devoted her research career to studying human happiness. Existing research suggests that genetics account for approximately 50% of our happiness (Braungart et al., 1992; Lykken & Tellegen, 1996; Tellegen et al., 1988), and circumstances account for approximately 10% (Argyle, 1999; Diener et al., 1999). Lyubomirsky advocates, that this therefore leaves as much as 40% of our happiness to be determined by ourselves and our intentional thoughts and activity, suggesting happiness is a choice we can have control over.

Read what Lyumbomisky and co-authors Kennon M. Sheldon and David Schkade have to say about how our happiness levels are governed here:

Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change

Read more on Lyubomirsky and her academic work here:

http://sonjalyubomirsky.com

Learn more about the books that she has authored, The How of Happiness and The Myths of Happiness, here:

http://drsonja.net

(If you have any problems following links in our research, then please copy and paste the text from our footnote* into your browser top bar)

Robert Holden, psychologist, author and broadcaster, is the founder of The Happiness Project, set up on the NHS, to provide a meditation on the psychology, sociology, and spirituality of happiness. The project, an eight-week programme, aimed to improve the wellbeing and mental health of its participants. Holden has authored numerous books with an offering of stories, philosophy and practical interventions on how to become happy. These works include his titles Happiness Now! Timeless Wisdom for Feel Good FAST (2007) and Be Happy: Release the Power of Happiness in YOU (2009).

Find out more about Holden’s work here:

http://www.robertholden.org

James D. Laird, psychologist from Clark University, has dedicated his career researching the connection between behaviour and feelings. He argues that we can make ourselves happier just from smiling, an idea called “self-perception theory”. Laird found that when certain people manipulate facial expressions into a smile they feel significantly happy as a result, whereas they feel much angrier when clenching their teeth.

Laird’s publication Feelings: The Perception of Self (2007) presents hundred of studies, demonstrating that feelings follow from behaviour. Read more here: http://www.clarku.edu/faculty/jlaird/Publications.htm

Here’s a link to his original research:

Self-attribution of emotion: The effects of expressive behaviour on the quality of emotional experience

Richard Wiseman, psychologist and author, has collated subsequent research that confirms and furthers James D. Laird’s theory. In his book Rip it Up, Wiseman’s “As If” principal refers to that possibility that by acting as if you are a certain type of person, you become that person.

This research in summarised in this short video by Richard Wiseman:

The As If Principal

Watch this video by Richard Wiseman and test to see if the physical act of smiling makes you happier:

The Smile Test

Using a PET scan, psychologist Elizabeth Perreau-Linck et al., found brains of those focussing on happy memories had an increased uptake of the serotonin building blocks, whereas, sad memories led to a lower uptake. These results support the conclusion that by choosing to focus on happy thoughts, we can self-regulate our brain’s neurotransmitters, changing its chemical balance to encourage happiness.

Read the study in full here:

In vivo measurements of brain trapping of C-labelled alpha-methyl-L-tryptophan during acute changes in mood states

Daniel Gilbert, professor of Psychology at Harvard University, explains how happiness can be synthesised by ourselves, and that this is just as real as happiness that comes from circumstances. Gilbert demonstrates synthetic happiness is not “cheating” yourself to be happier in an experiment where he repeatedly visited hospitalised amnesia patients, asking them to rank paintings before and after allowing them to keep their favourite. The patients consistently became happier with the painting they had initially chosen even though they could not remember having been given it in the first instance. The happiness unknowingly created by themselves was true and genuine.

Watch Gilbert talking about this experiment and further ways that our “psychological immune system” can help us feel happy even when things don’t go as planned in the following TEDtalk:

The surprising science of happiness

Footnote*

(If you have any problems following links in our research, then please copy and paste the text below relating to the article you wish to see into your browser top bar)

Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky
Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change
http://sonjalyubomirsky.com/wp-content/themes/sonjalyubomirsky/papers/LSS2005.pdf

Lyubomirsky’s academic work
http://sonjalyubomirsky.com

Myths of Happiness, here:
http://drsonja.net

Robert Holden
Find out more about Holden’s work here:

James D. Laird
Feelings: The Perception of Self
http://www.clarku.edu/faculty/jlaird/Publications.htm

Self-attribution of emotion: The effects of expressive behaviour on the quality of emotional experience
http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/29/4/475/

Richard Wiseman
The As If Principal

The Smile Test

Elizabeth Perreau-Linck et al.
In vivo measurements of brain trapping of C-labelled alpha-methyl-L-tryptophan during acute changes in mood states
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077345/

Daniel Gilbert
The surprising science of happiness